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NSW to appoint school behaviour advisor

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns says the best way to improve school students’ behaviour is a “blanket ban” on mobile phones, after the premier announced plans to appoint a specialist to advise on dealing with poor conduct.

Dominic Perrottet said a chief behaviour adviser – a new NSW Department of Education role – would provide guidance to state, independent and Catholic schools.

The adviser will help NSW schools manage difficult student behaviour exacerbated by learning disruption caused by COVID-19.

The expert will reportedly use latest evidence-based practices to develop guidelines and advise parents and carers on ways to back up behavioural approaches taken at school.

“This is all about driving educational outcomes so our kids get the best start in life,” Mr Perrottet told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

“We know that just one child’s poor behaviour in the classroom can lead to a negative impact on our children’s learning.”

But Mr Minns said the “single best thing” the government could do to boost discipline would be to ban mobile phones in high schools.

“This state is falling behind,” he said in Lismore on the state’s north coast.

“Other jurisdictions have imposed the ban and their school children now have uninterrupted school days where teachers can actually instruct kids.

“I’m really concerned that the government is not listening to teachers and they’re not listening to parents.

“The overwhelming evidence from the parent community is that this is a huge distraction.”

A Labor government would impose a phone ban in senior schools, with Mr Minns saying children were “guinea pigs” when it came to the impacts of mobile devices.

The premier also announced the government would more than double the number of behaviour specialists based in public schools from 70 to 200.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the measures were needed to help schools grappling with “more complex behaviour” from students.

It was announced over the weekend that the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has been tasked with proposing a suite of new social and wellbeing initiatives for primary school students.

As well, provisions in the state budget would mean a “full suite” of developmental checks for young children.

“It’s really just reinforcing that we want to give our schools the best support when it comes to dealing with these sort of challenges,” Ms Mitchell said.

Learning disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic magnified behavioural issues and was the catalyst for the initiatives, she added.

The role of social media and online behaviour could be an area the specialist examines and new respect awards for students would also be rolled out to improve behaviour and regard for others on social platforms.

“We are expecting buy-in from our principals … I think our principals will see this as a good thing,” she said.

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